Tuesday, 6 May 2014

William Hayley & William Cowper's pension - part I

William Hayley went to visit the poet William Cowper at his home in Weston for the first time in April 1792 and…

"I was grieved to the soul in hearing, that the Income of such a Man as Cowper arose partly by pitiful & precarious Contribution from Relations & Friends.– it immediately became the first wish of my Heart to procure for him a becoming Independance." [sic]
This became "the darling project" of Hayley's "sanguine Spirit", despite the fact that

"An austere Critic might here tell me, that it would have been more Prudent, & more fashionable to have rather regarded as my first object the Improvement of my own shrinking Finances, which were not, I must confess, at the time I speak of, nor are they at present in a very flourishing Condition."
Still, there was no austere critic to hand - or if there was, Hayley ignored him or her, and determined to lobby the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lord Thurlow - an old friend of Cowper's from his law student days.

Beforehand, he persuaded another friend, Thomas Carwardine, who'd sent a copy of Cowper's poems to Thurlow's daughter Catherine to get Catherine to forward the book on to him. She did, and he then inserted the following encouraging verses:

To Miss Catherine Thurlow
with Cowper’s Poems.

Sweet Nymph! accept a Bard, for whom
Rich amaranths with Roses bloom
  To deck his moral Lyre;
Dear, doubly dear, must wit & Truth
Be deemed by you, from one whose youth
  Was social with your sire.
apart by different stars impelled
Their course, as Mortals, both have held
  To suffer, & to drudge:
But Genius kept them both in view,
and to the Heights of Honor drew
  The Poet, & the judge.

Ingenuous Girl! while here you see
How their fraternal Hearts agree
  In Energy & Truth
May you restore, & teach to blaze
With double Glory’s blended rays
  The Friendship of their youth!

Despite being both "overwhelmed with Business" and "splenetic", the Chancellor found a time slot for Hayley to plead Cowper's case.

And he did so, he tells us, in an extraordinary, unpublished document written in 1794, with "vehemence & intrepidity"

"I appealed to the Chancellor, if it would not singularly become the King to bestow his munificence on Cowper, not only as a proper Compliment to a Man of Genius & virtue … but as an act of personal thanksgiving & Gratitude towards Heaven, for having restored his Majesty from that mental Malady, by which this wonderful & most interesting poet has been periodically afflicted:—"